The Original Stories – TedX Speech

This speech was given (though not verbatim!) in Chatham-Kent at the Chatham Capitol Theatre on Thursday, October 19, 2017. 

Like life, stories have a beginning, middle and end.

Consider that your relationship with every thing and every one is rooted in stories.

Our language around storytelling is vibrant and common.

We’ve all heard someone say or have even said ourselves: I can read you like a book.

Or – This chapter needs closure.

Consider that you are a library. A library that’s filled with books – and each book is in turn filled with chapters.

Consider that everyone you meet is reading these books. Judging your ‘cover’ and deciding if they want to open up and read the first few lines of your stories.

It’s possible that your books can be the best books you and others have ever read.

That your stories – your beginnings, middles and ends – are precisely what motives your choices, and therefore, how you are able to live your dreams.


Because we are already comfortable relating our life as ‘story’, let’s merge these ideas and consider that the stories we tell ourselves every day come to us as the voices in our heads.

And these powerful stories motivate our choices.

Another way to look at it is, that these voices are the writers of our life stories.

Therefore, these voices are creating the beginnings, middles and ends of each chapter in our lives.

Essentially, these voices connect us to our core ‘books’ or ‘fundamental stories’ that make us who we are.

My name is Vanessa Shields.

I’m a storyteller and a writer.

I’m a woman with many voices in her head.

I’m a human with a library of books that I carry around with me every day.

Many of them congregate here in my midsection.

Eckhart Tolle, in his book, The New Earth, says “What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. Who am I? The one who sees that.”

When look closely at our core stories – that is those stories that have existed as voices in our heads for the longest and that are the loudest and most consistent – we can identify what I call our Original Stories.

Furthermore, when we pay attention to these Original Stories we find that they are directly related to the choices we make toward living our dreams.

AND living our purpose.

AND being happy and feeling joy.

And, most importantly, in our ability to love and be loved.

Here’s a real-life example:

 A year ago, almost to the day, one of the loudest voices and most consistent voices in my head was this:


Often, what causes us to pay attention to one of our Original Stories is an emotional or physical trigger. We feel a deep emotion consistently or illness strikes our body. The Original Story manifests outside of the voice in our head.

I physically felt exhausted. My heart was breaking. I lost my confidence for things that I’ve always had confidence for. That Original Story showed up more and more – it morphed into YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. PERIOD. I had a small but significant breakdown. My emotions and my body could no longer carry this Original Story. I didn’t want to hear that voice any longer, and I began to hear a single voice saying:When you hear this voice – it is the voice of that Original Story begging you to pay attention. Other sentences and words in your head like STOP, ENOUGH OF THIS, or I NEED A BREAK – are also indications that an Original Story needs attention.

When this happens, all the other voices will pool together to tell your mind, body and spirit that it’s time to:

REVEW, REVISE OR REWRITE this Original Story.These three steps will lead you to taking action with the Original Story that is affecting your choices in a negative way.

Author Joseph Jaworski, in his book Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership, writes… “it is through language that we create the world, because it’s nothing until we describe it. And when we describe it, we create distinctions that govern our actions.”

So as we pay attention to the voices in our heads – that is the language that creates our worlds – inner and outer – we are reviewing the story to be sure we want it to govern our actions or choices in a certain way.

The act of writing the original story out by hand and answering these three questions will not only offer you insight into the origins of the story but it will give you the ability to see it outside of your head – no longer as a voice that motivates your choices –but as a physical piece of evidence that you can review however many times it takes until you decide what you want to do with the story.

The physical act of hand-writing an Original Story is empowering. It is a literal way to remove the story from your mind/body so you can see it for what it is: a story.In rewriting this original story by editing and revising, you are taking control of that voice in your head. You are physically changing the story plot and structure, the characters and the joy the story can bring. You are creating a new story that will replace the Original Story with something positive.

If you’re thinking: oh man, that’s gonna take a long time! This is a voice that’s been in my head for most or all of my life.

I say to you – YES! This process takes time and practice.If you think about it, it’s taken time and practice for this Original Story to live and grow and affect how you make choices. I can assure you it will take less time to review, revise and rewrite this Original Story. It’s worth the time and effort.

Breathe. Okay, so I’d like to point out that there are many Original Stories that are positive. There are voices in our heads that keep us strong, that battle and brave the Original Stories that we need to review, revise and rewrite. These voices, these Original Stories are an important part of the truths the motivate our choices. So when you hear these voices, when you feel these positive Original Stories – keep them there!

It took me 3 months to review, revise and rewrite my Original Story that ‘I’m not good enough’.

It took two journals, two road trips and lots of tissue.

I created a new story – and I’ve summed it up in two sentences:You do you, Vanessa! Spread your love.

The final step in this process is to sum up your new story and get it in your head as a positive new voice.

I wrote a new story using new words that are affecting me in a positive way and motivating positive choices.

I’ve finished the Chapter on ‘Not Good Enough’. I’ve reviewed its beginnings, I’ve revised and rewritten its middle, and in the end, I’ve created a new story that helps me live my dreams.

So listen to the voices in your head. Pay attention to the ones that are the loudest and most consistent. These are your Original Stories. Review, revise and rewrite – by hand – the beginning, middle and end of the Original Stories that are hindering your positive choices. Give yourself the gift of reading it out loud, and embracing the new summed up story. Start listening to this new, positive voice in your head.

I’d like to end this chapter with you audience, with a quote from writer Natalie Goldberg, “Writing practice brings you below the surface to really meet what you see, think and feel. And you keep meeting that and you build a spine, and you find out who you are…When you heal yourself, you’re helping everyone.”

I invite you to write the best books of ‘you’ that you can. And then do what you do when you read a book you love – hold it to your heart, inhale the love, and pass it on.

Thank you.



For more information on The Original Stories, please visit the website: